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It’s the time of year when we recognize the outstanding contributions that our USGS staff have made over the past year.

Every year, the USGS Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center awards employees and teams for their outstanding contributions to our center. Their selfless dedication, scientific excellence, and work ethic bring great credit upon themselves and the U.S. Geological Survey, and truly uphold the USGS motto, "Science for a changing world."


Employee of the Year

Sarah Queen holds an award plaque and poses with Mary Kay Foley.
Sarah Queen poses for a photo with Center Director Mary Kay Foley after receiving the 2023 Employee of the Year award.

Sarah Queen has been awarded the 2023 Employee of the Year Award!

Sarah has been a consistently strong employee, relied upon by many, and constantly pushing to do better. She took on new roles with the Data Quality Management Team helping to make sure meetings were productive and organized, and became the de facto lead for championing work on the Center's Internal Technical Review Procedures, compiling information for the Annual Internal Summary Report, and helping everyone stay on schedule for their tasks.

Her nominators noted that Sarah is quick and happy to help with any issue, and the tools she has created help us stay organized, efficient, and in compliance. For Sarah's strong consistently high performance, ability to tackle new challenges, and amazing value as a resource for her colleagues she is highly deserving of the Center's award for 2023 Employee of the Year. Congratulations Sarah!


Best Project

Award Recipients: Natalie Hall and Marina Metes

Left: Marina Metes poses with Mary Kay Foley. Right: Natalie Hall.
Left: Marina Metes poses with Mary Kay Foley. Right: Natalie Hall.

Our best project award goes to Natalie Hall and Marina Metes of the Clarksburg Stormwater Management Project!

Natalie Hall and Marina Metes are recognized for their role in the Clarksburg Stormwater Management Project, an assessment over 20 years in Montgomery County, MD of the impacts of suburban development and distributed stormwater control on stream function.

Their efforts were critical in assessing the long-term impacts of different types of development (treatment of the land) on stream flow changes, water quality, soil erosion, and stream biotic health. The results of this project demonstrated the value of long-term datasets for analysis, the need for holistic assessment of multiple stressors, and that distributed stormwater control across the landscape can achieve some goals, but not all.

Video Transcript
This video acts as a “visual abstract” for a recent publication analyzing the stormwater management practices in Clarksburg, MD. The video features interviews with the team of USGS scientists as well as a water specialist from Montgomery County. This video features slides from the researcher’s presentations and footage showcasing how Montgomery County and the USGS have teamed up to study how stormwater practices are effecting development decisions and local ecology.


Best Publication

Award Recipients: Zachary J. Clifton (lead), Matthew J. Cashman, and Michelle P. Katoski

From left to right: Matt Cashman, Zach Clifton, and Michelle Katoski pose with Mary Kay Foley upon receiving 2023 Best Publication.
From left to right: Matt Cashman, Zach Clifton, and Michelle Katoski pose with Mary Kay Foley upon receiving 2023 Best Publication.


Our best publication goes to Zachary J. Clifton (lead), Matthew J. Cashman, and Michelle P. Katoski for the publication, "Quantifying Connectivity and Its Effects on Sediment Budgeting for an Agricultural Basin, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, USA". 

This study sought to determine the sources, storage, and delivery of sediment using a sediment budget approach for the predominantly pasture and forested Smith Creek watershed, Virginia United States, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. In their paper the authors present a method by which major sediment sources were identified. The work was well written and communicated findings in a clear manner that allows resource managers such as farmers, Conservation Districts, and the NRCS to employ specific sediment reduction practices aimed at stemming the flow of sediment to the bay. Congrats!


Innovation Award

Award Recipients: Andrew Psoras and Adam Mumford

Adam Mumford and Andrew Psoras pose with Mary Kay Foley.
Adam Mumford and Andrew Psoras.

From day one Andrew Psoras wasted no time acting to implement new innovative ideas in the lab. These included:

  • Developing and testing a method to measure certain PFAS compounds in-house

  • Designing and completing experiments to test PFAS sorption to silicone bands which can be used to monitor exposure to PFAS

  • Implementing labor and money saving automation of dissolved gas sample analysis

  • R-scripting to improve quality assurance and quality control of PCB data, apply corrections for passive samplers, and plot PCB concentration

  • Improving R-scripts for quality assurance and quality control of volatile organic compound (VOC) data, assigning qualifiers and eliminating symbology issues


Adam Mumford played a crucial role in the methods development and testing discussed above as well. He also modified the anaerobic chamber and system to enable better prep of microcosm experiments and anaerobic culturing, which resulted in reduced costs for gas usage. Additionally, Adam identified and worked to eliminate interference from organic acids in fluoride measurements on the IC, which is critical to documenting PFAS degradation and defluorination. Congrats Andrew and Adam!


Program Development Award: EPA Small Agricultural Watersheds Project

Award Recipients: Mark Nardi and Alex Soroka

Alex Soroka poses with Mary Kay Foley.
Alex Soroka poses with Mary Kay Foley. (Nark Nardi not pictured).

Billions of dollars have been spent in the Chesapeake Bay watershed implementing agricultural conservation practices (also known as Best Management Practices or BMPs) but great uncertainty remains regarding their efficacy. To help resolve the disconnect between observed water quality and anticipated improvements, US EPA committed over $1m in funding for the USGS to instrument and monitor 5 small agricultural watersheds.

Instrumentation includes stream gaging to measure discharge, high frequency sampling, and continuous monitoring of nitrate, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, pH, water temperature and turbidity. In addition to the $1M from EPA, Mark Nardi and Alex Soroka also sought out agreements with the USDS Natural Resources Conservation Service in Delaware and Maryland totaling another $600k.

This project will provide a better understanding of the impact of agricultural conservation on water quality and create educational opportunities bringing together researchers, farmers, academics and related agencies. Congratulations Mark and Alex!



Award Recipients: Kelly McVicker, Todd Lester, Brett McFarland, Jason Chase, Zach Clifton, and Megan Jahnke

Kelly McVicker, Jason Chase, Zach Clifton, Brett McFarland, Todd Lester, and Megan Jahnke
From left to right: Kelly McVicker, Todd Lester, Brett McFarland, Jason Chase, Zach Clifton, and Megan Jahnke pose with Mary Kay Foley.

Kelly McVicker is being awarded an efficiency award for her impressive spreadsheet skills and building an extremely efficient, user-friendly Superfly spreadsheet template that our water quality team could use for discrete sampling. Kelly has kept the template up to date with national changes and is constantly working on making it faster and easier for everyone to use. 

At the beginning of this summer Kelly was tasked with creating a usable spreadsheet template for groundwater sampling that could be used for National Water Quality Network (NWQN) sampling. The new template has all the abilities of the old paper field forms and lab forms. The improvements have already saved our teams a lot of time and helped provide a way to remove some human errors. Her templates are not only used by our center but have been shared with the New Jersey Water Science Center. Congratulations Kelly! 


Todd Lester was selected for this award for the wonderful suite of apps he has made to help with station analyses. The app pulls information from AQUARIUS which saves time in copying numbers, correction lists, etc. while also fulfilling OQA requirements for analysis documentation. It also saves time since the numbers do not need to be checked for typos or mistakes by the approver. More focus can be placed on the data and record processing itself rather than the spending time making sure the numbers match.


Brett McFarland is receiving the efficiency award for numerous improvements he has brought to the Center. Brett led warehouse improvements, decluttering, and maintenance. While it's part of everyone’s job, Brett tackled it head on with a well thought out plan. Brett wrote a data release for the Eastern shore work. This is not typically Data Section work and took a fair amount of time to learn the process and actually do the work. 

Brett has taken the lead on regional technician training. Training has long been an interest of his, and he’s now acting to put a solution in place to onboard staff in a reasonable manner with a clear path forward to becoming fully efficient techs in as short of a time as possible. Brett is involved in coordinating the trainings as well as teaching classes. He also helped organize chainsaw training specifically applicable to our jobs. Rather than being trained by videos and a few minutes of handling a chainsaw in a controlled situation, the new training focuses on hands on situations specific to field conditions, such as cutting up piles of logs. Congrats Brett!


Jason Chase, in the words of the person who nominated him "has doubled the sediment lab’s efficiency ever since he joined the team!" His prior experience with sediment fingerprinting from his master's degree enabled him to make informed decisions and improvements in the sediment lab. 

When the new particle size analyzer arrived, Jason read the manual, ran tests, and performed statistical analysis on these tests to better understand how we could use it most efficiently in our lab. He did this quickly and had samples running through right away. He has also reorganized the hundreds of sediment fingerprinting samples in our fridges, and worked with the Fate and Bioremediation team to ensure there is enough space as samples come in. Congratulations Jason!


Zach Clifton put hours of research into the Center's new particle size analyzer. He reached out to various companies, set up calls for machine demonstrations, met with administrative staff to discuss funding and acquisition, and planned out a budget for setting up the machine and learning it, as well as re-budgeting all sediment lab projects to utilize this machine. Zach calculated the savings from this new instrument to be sure we were making the right decision. The new instrument has saved an estimated $30,000 and avoided recurring repair costs of several thousand per year. Congrats Zach!


Megan Jahnke has helped improve efficiency at our center and the Office of International Programs. She has excelled at coordinating between our center and USGS human resources, which is no easy task. Megan quickly and deftly has resolved issues to keep critical hiring efforts moving forward. She has also played a critical role in the upcoming renewals of cooperative agreements for the Baltimore and Frostburg offices, making sure we're responsive to new and sometimes evolving internal requirements. She's done all this while also performing other roles for our center and helping out the Office of International Programs.


Best Mentor

Award Recipients: Ashley Ryan and Andrew Sekellick

Ashley Ryan and Andrew Sekellick pose for a photo with Mary Kay Foley.
Ashley Ryan and Andrew Sekellick.

Ashley Ryan consistently receives several nominations a year for best mentor. Her colleagues that nominated her said it best. "Since I started with the USGS, Ashley has been one of the people most involved in my training. She taught me how to do field work and collect data which meets USGS standards. She has been friendly and welcoming throughout my time here and has given me a very positive impression of the culture within the center. She has always been willing to answer my questions when I am confused or stuck on something." Congratulations Ashley on being selected for this award.

The multiple people who nominated Andrew Sekellick put it best. Andy has consistently gone out of his way to support anyone who wants to expand their career and areas of interest within the USGS. He is a patient and willing teacher, always humble, Andy has stepped aside to let his mentees shine and is nothing but helpful. He goes out of his way to great new employees and help others feel included. Andy has coached two early career scientists on how to start a new project from scratch. In addition to being a consistent voice on the JEDI team, he also always promotes cooperation between disciplines and coworkers.


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Award

Award Recipients: Breck Sullivan

Breck Sullivan poses for a photo with Mary Kay Foley.
Breck Sullivan.

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) award goes to Breck Sullivan, who was the driving force behind the development and execution of the multi-lateral agreement between USGS, EPA, and UMBC. 

This agreement furthered our goals of enhancing research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship in environmental science, and enhancing career development and creating a seamless pipeline for underrepresented students to join our workforce. 

This was a monumental undertaking, since it required working through all the administrative hurdles in multiple organizations, working with regional executives and the UMBC president on a signing event, and following through on this agreement which will help the USGS have easier access to the talent available at UMBC, a minority serving institution. Congratulations Breck!


CRP Compliance

Award Recipients: Frostburg Office

Members of the Frostburg office pose for a photo with Mary Kay Foley.
From left to right: AJ Greise, Cory Wright, Eric Boyd, and Logan Jeffries. Not pictured: Matt Baker, Lauren Kurtz, and James Broadwater.

In 2010, a WRD Policy was issued stating that “All Water Science Centers shall implement Continuous Records Processing of all water time-series data by June 30, 2010, with the full understanding that it may take some time for full implementation.” Thirteen years later, we are still working on achieving this goal and in recent years, making a lot of progress.

The purpose of this award is to recognize any office or section that has maintained Continuous Records Compliance (CRP) for the entire year for >95% of CRP eligible sites. For the second year in the row, we would like to recognize the Frostburg Field Office for maintaining their CRP status of greater than 95% compliant throughout the year.


CRP Approval

Award Recipient: Michael Geissel

Michael Geissel poses for a photo with Mary Kay Foley.
Michael Geissel.

Michael Geissel has been picking up record approvals from other approvers who have had other priorities like site fixes, side projects, and trainings. Mike has approved records at 41+ sites since the start of the water year, many of which were multi-year or complex records. This is a higher number than other approvers in the Baltimore office. He has been maintaining our Continuous Records Compliance (CRP) numbers when otherwise we would have fallen very far behind. Mike looks for opportunities to help and volunteers early and often to help others. It is clear that he is prioritizing CRP improvement. Congrats Mike!


Stepped Up Award

Award Recipients: AJ Greise, Zach Clifton, Tristan Mohs, Sam Woomer, Trevor Needham, and Jeremy Malen

Trevor Needham, Zach Clifton, Tristan Mohs, Sam Woomer, AJ Greise.
From left to right: AJ Greise, Zach Clifton, Tristan Mohs, Sam Woomer, and Trevor Needham receive a Stepped Up Award from Mary Kay Foley. Not pictured: Jeremy Malen.

AJ Greise was selected for this award for basically becoming the Center’s specialist on indirect flow measurements through his own learning of the material and in-field practice after previous experts retired. Through his own efforts and desire to help fill this need in the center, AJ did the work to get up to speed and then took on this additional role. Congrats AJ!

Zach Clifton and Tristan Mohs are being recognized with this award for stepping up and taking on outreach efforts for the center. Zach has been coordinating our monthly science webinars and helping out with other outreach efforts. Tristan has been the center's primary point of contact for events and coordinating to make sure we are well represented. Both Zach and Tristan took on these responsibilities in addition to the regular responsibilities, and we are appreciative of their efforts. Congrats Zach and Tristan!

Sam Woomer went way above and beyond by helping out a new employee who had just moved to our Dover office with housing and helping her find work for her spouse and being so accommodating throughout. Sam's effort to help out a fellow employee is more than worthy of this award. Congrats Sam!

Trevor Needham has stepped up in several ways this year, becoming a studies section supervisor, putting in extra effort on a number of FAB projects, and picking up a couple of DOEE projects that desperately needed attention to detail and big push to get them moving again. We recognize the additional effort put in and are up to present this award as a token of our appreciation. Congrats Trevor!

Jeremy Malen has been leading the effort with the Anacostia bacteria data, he's had to learn how to use new equipment and is probably one of our center's most knowledgeable on it now. The data from the sampling is starting to tell us exciting and actionable things about the Anacostia. Congrats Jeremy!


Dirty Jobs Award

Award Recipients: Sam Woomer, Ashley Melvin, Jacob Mavrogeorge, Angela Flack, Michael Brownley

Sam Woomer, Michael Brownley, Angela Flack, Ashley Melvin, Jacob Mavrogeorge.
Sam Woomer, Ashley Melvin, Jacob Mavrogeorge, Angela Flack, Michael Brownley.

This award goes to the Dover office for building and maintaining the instrumentation at Ship John Shoal. This is a very, very difficult site to visit. It is covered in inches of bird droppings and smells really, really bad in the summer (and not too good in the winter either!). The crew has bought dedicated clothing and shoes to go to the site because they are basically unusable for any other purpose after they have been there. All of our technicians are dedicated but this really goes above and beyond the call of duty!!!

Video Transcript
It’s quite the trek to get to Ship John Shoal lighthouse, which is several miles off the Delaware coast and only accessible by boat. There, USGS scientists clean and service equipment that plays an important role in our understanding of the salt front in the Delaware Bay.


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